Project Based Learning with the iPad (Part One)

I have always wanted to trial PBL, and never really found the time or if I am honest the real conviction to give this a go properly. Yes I have done projects before in class everyone has, but I know from reading about PBL, particularly from places like Cramlington and High Tech High in San Diego, that it’s all about a quality product at the end, and accepting the feedback to make improvements. Or in their language a Critique

So this is where I started, researching what works from other schools, but trying to adapt the methods to fit my timescales (and relative skills). I explained at the start I would not accept mediocrity (I never do) but I thought it was important to stress the outcomes and success criteria, and the expectation to accept and given meaningful feedback.

My Students and starter lessons


I have a super bottom set year 9 class, that I thought they were the perfect Guinea Pigs. And my reasons are, they basically fall into one or a few of the following categories. They are wonderful students every single one of them, but the majority either just don’t like science, aren’t very good at it (in their view), or just don’t work hard enough to really embed concepts. So I have given them and myself a big challenge. 

I called it #Project9IGS, and decided on a window of implementation to get it completed for after the Easter holiday. That will be effectively 8 lessons of work, plus any extra work the students put in plus the holiday. We started with the first lesson, where I set the scene and we spent the entire lesson choosing and refining our questions to answer and doing a first piece of primary research. I really tried to push them on the quality and demand of questions, but I have to say the outcomes will only be truly apparent when the final products come in. I gave them some ideas but these examples are what the students came up with, depending on their own interests. The hard to reach boys were particularly keen to give this a go.

Some questions posed and hopefully answered by #Project9IGS

1. Why are wolves being reintroduced into the UK?

2. What is a Black hole and an Event Horizon?

3. Explore the The physics of an F1 car?

4. What are the effects on a person during fast jet flight?

5. How do Painkillers and Anaesthetics work?

6. What are the adpatations of defence mechanisms in animals?

7. Investigation the chemistry of Calcium Carbonate

8. What is Lucid Dreaming?


When I received an email from of the boys in the class at 7.30pm at night asking some questions about his project, I suddenly thought, WOW!!! he is thinking about school science work after school time. He is one the most hard to reach in the class. Maybe its a fad, maybe its a honeymoon period, but I will take that engagement as a first step. The next lesson will be about quality products and feedback. I intend to show some projects from the likes of Cramlington and High Tech High, plus my ever favourite ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ for the feedback.


Next update in two weeks time, but I will tweet pictures using the #Project9IGS hastag for briefer updates


AC 23.3.14




The #5MinResearchPlan on #RAG123 marking


“There are lies, damned lies and statistics (but this doesn’t include educational research)” – Benjamin Disraeli

I always look forward to the blogs of Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner) and Ross MorrisonMcGill (@TeacherToolkit). A few weeks ago I read their co-authored blog on educational research and the changing role of the classroom practitioner in terms of undertaking classroom based educational research. Whether you like the 5 minute series or not (and I do because I can look past the 5 minute tag) the idea that teachers should undertake research, implement a change and measure the impact cannot be a bad idea. At the heart of it is a teacher wanting to improve (a growth mindset in action surely?).

The blogs are here (by @leadinglearner) and here (by @teachertoolkit).


The principle is that you identify an issue/concern, you do some research, implement a change, analyse, evaluate and then disseminate. The blog got me…

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Nurture 13/14



Nurture 13/14

I have never really blogged much apart from the occasional brief post, so posting this is a real step forward for me.

I want to start with how I feel sometimes in teaching, particularly as part of the LT. Above is a picture of me at North Berwick GC in a big beach bunker. I took three swipes to move the ball 20 yards, then hit the next shot right by the hole. Teaching I think, particularly in my career anyway, can be like this. Slowly, moving the school forward with lots of effort and sweat for what seems like very little gain. Then ‘BAMM’ a stroke of genius and the school lurches forwards with everyone on board, and I sit back thinking why didn’t I do that (3 shots) months ago??



For years we were happy just the two of us, then we realised, it was now or never. Our bundle of joy arrived just before Christmas last year, and I know its cliche, but everything changed. I wish sometimes I had the stamina of a 25 year old, as I chase him around, or i’m so tired at 3am, I could just cry. But being an older dad has benefits too, financially stable (although it doesn’t feel like that after childcare!!) and most importantly far more life aware than I was at 25. I save my biggest debt of gratitude for my wife, without who I couldn’t do the the job I do. When I’m leaving her again, with a 1 year old to put to bed, as I blast back to work to see another governors’ meeting or presentation evening. The unsung heroes of school LTs are the families that support us?


It’s been a revelation/revolution for me. I have been tweeting for years but as a usual tweeter (main events/news/sport/etc) then I made a conscious effort to open another professional feed, and wow, it’s been fantastic. Chatting, watching, admiring and above all sharing ideas with like minded colleagues has been amazing. As I say to everyone who will listen ‘Twitter is the best free CPD anywhere, and you cant afford to be left behind’. Thanks to all, particularly the @SLTchat gang on a Sunday night, it has been brilliant fun, and so enlightening to communicate with you all.


For one reason or another I didn’t teach last year, and I missed it hugely, so this year when I was allocated three wonderful classes, I have thrown every ounce of my teaching skill at them. The iPad revolution has really impacted at school, and having students with 1:1 devices has just given new avenues to explore. I have tried to lead on innovation with the iPad at school and change minds. Some of the results have been wonderful. But I am still learning and always will be!!


It’s time to rethink again and look for new challenges, I still love my job, and love the school and students, but realised a few years ago, I am ready for the next step. That however has proved difficult, a few interviews, but things weren’t right and at deputy level, I think it needs to be a mutual ‘want’.



It’s another cliche but ‘be more strategic’ but I don’t want to sacrifice what matters most to me and that is the school community. The students, their parents and the staff are what makes a school and I will continue my endeavours to help lead them well with every ounce of my work.


Make it work both ways, be successful in work, but a good dad, husband, son and friend too. Easy to say hard to do!!


My oldest and best friend gets married in April and I have moved mountains to go with him to Las Vegas. I have planned it, sacrificed a lot to pay for it, and will enjoy it hugely. The Grand Canyon helicopter flight will be awesome, but I have also contacted an American Advanced Tech High School in Nevada for a visit for a Morning. I have so many US twitter colleagues, and I have always wanted to visit a US high school and now I will get to do it. It will be interesting, and I wonder how different they are from UK schools?


I want to share the ideas I have with a wider audience and I suppose Twitter is the place for that, but I also pledge to blog more and also want to do #teachmeets and hopefully the #SLTcamp. I do have to work harder in school on my polishing/finishing of my projects as that is something I must work to improve.


I would like to be one of these and intend to apply once I have a learning portfolio of innovation with Apple devices to be proud of. Its a dream but an achievable one I hope?

And finally that wasn’t too bad, blogging is quite fun! 


Best wishes to all






Twitter for Educators

Twitter for teachers and educators 


I have to say when I first started using twitter, I thought it was a bit of fun. I did the usual follow your football team, a few celebrities and BBC news. I used to glance occasionally at it, and even less frequently tweeted about the weather or what is on TV, as those two things are a British institution.


My first and biggest tip is have two feeds (at least!). One for your professional life, it should include your name, role, interests and ideally location. Keep it absolutely professional on this feed. Never use this feed for anything other than tweeting about work or educational matters.  Your other feed should be for your ‘real life’, use this one to tweet about your football team, the X factor, or whatever else. My reasoning behind this is:

1. It allows you to manage your own work life balance better.

2. You are less likely to get unwanted followers on your professional feed and it’s easy to block anyone, who you don’t want to follow you.

3. It is just safer for everyone most importantly you as a professional

4. You can use your other non professional feed, to engage in your outside work passions with less likelihood of anyone questioning your integrity.


Second tip, engage in the big educational conversations. #ukedchat on a Thursday evening. #SLTchat on a Sunday they are both worth looking at to engage and follow other education professionals. The CPD and networking opportunities in these discussion forums are fantastic. There are some fabulous twitter teachers out there all to willing to share ideas and resources with you.


Third tip, look internationally too. The US, Canada and Australia, all have fantastic twitter networks and they are all too interested to share their ideas, with people from the little island in the Atlantic.


Lastly, enjoy Twitter, it really is developing into the essential tool for modern teachers and i can’t see how anyone can expect to consider themselves up to speed in education without this valuable tool.


have fun



Google Drive use in the classroom

starting a trial at school using Google Drive of the iPad as a way of storing information from lessons. Not exactly cutting edge technology I know , but have struggled with workflow and capturing students’ work for progress checks and I hope this solves it. Google docs and collaborating is my next challenge too?
Day 1 the students have downloaded the app, set up a folder and have saved work into it. (Small steps for now) I have also opened a blog for them to share their ideas on how it works

Update soon